Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy: A scoping review of participants’ and facilitators’ experiences in qualitative studies




Psilocybin; Psychedelic mushroom; Psilocybin-assisted therapy; Scoping review; Experiences; Qualitative research.


There has been a surge in research on Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy (PAT) over the past three decades. PAT has yielded positive results across clinical trials and demonstrated efficacy in treating various mental disorders. However, limited qualitative research exists that explores peoples’ experiences of PAT. This study aims to review the current literature on the experiences of individuals that have participated in PAT, as well as individuals that have facilitated PAT. This study aims to increase our understanding of PAT to guide and improve therapeutic effectiveness. A scoping review was conducted from English language studies published in peer-reviewed journals. Searches were conducted from PsycInfo, CINAHL, PubMed, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library databases. Inclusion criteria were qualitative studies involving PAT that were conducted between January 1990 and December 2022; articles published in peer-reviewed journals; and psychedelic practitioners’ experiences of facilitating PAT. In total, 13 articles were extracted to be included in the review. Articles were published between 2017 and 2021, and were divided into (1) Participant Studies (10) and (2) Facilitator Studies (3). Six themes were identified: the influence of set and setting; PAT was personalised and meaningful; PAT can be highly emotive; transcendental experiences; reduction of symptoms and long-lasting changes; and boundaries and responsibility. The literature revealed numerous interrelated therapeutic elements that may have contributed to a meaningful experience during PAT. This may play a role in attaining long-lasting positive therapeutic outcomes. The studies were varied and highlighted the usefulness of further exploring PAT.


Agin-Liebes, G., Ekman, E., Anderson, B., Malloy, M., Haas, A., & Woolley, J. (2021). Participant reports of mindfulness, posttraumatic growth, and social connectedness in psilocybin-assisted group therapy: An interpretive phenomenological analysis. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 1-28.

Al-Naggar, R. A., Alshaikhli, H., & Erlam, G. (2021). Effectiveness of psilocybin on depression: A qualitative study. Electronic Journal of General Medicine, 18(3), 3–9.

Arksey, H., & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: Towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19–32.

Barrett, F. S., Robbins, H., Smooke, D., Brown, J. L., & Griffiths, R. R. (2017). Qualitative and quantitative features of music reported to support peak mystical experiences during psychedelic therapy sessions. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1-12.

Belser, A. B., Agin-Liebes, G., Swift, T. C., Terrana, S., Devenot, N., Friedman, H. L., & Ross, S. (2017). Patient experiences of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 57(4), 354–388.

Bienemann, B., Ruschel, N. S., Campos, M. L., Negreiros, M. A., & Mograbi, D. C. (2020). Self-reported negative outcomes of psilocybin users: A quantitative textual analysis. PLoS ONE, 15(2), 1–14.

Bogenschutz, M. P., Forcehimes, A. A., Pommy, J. A., Wilcox, C. E., Barbosa, P., & Strassman, R. J. (2015). Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: A proof-of-concept study. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 29(3), 289–299.

Bogenschutz, M. P., Podrebarac, S. K., Duane, J. H., Amegadzie, S. S., Malone, T. C., Owens, L. T., & Mennenga, S. E. (2018). Clinical interpretations of patient experience in a trial of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for alcohol use disorder. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9(FEB), 1–7.

Breeksema, J. J., Niemeijer, A., Krediet, E., Vermetten, E., & Schoevers, R. (2020). Psychedelic treatments for psychiatric disorders: A systematic review and thematic synthesis of patient experiences in qualitative studies. CNS Drugs.

Brennan, W., Jackson, M. A., MacLean, K., & Ponterotto, J. G. (2021). A qualitative exploration of relational ethical challenges and practices in psychedelic healing. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, September, 1-31.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., Bolstridge, M., Day, C. M. J., Rucker, J., Watts, R., Erritzoe, D. E., & Nutt, D. J. (2018). Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: Six-month follow-up. Psychopharmacology, 235(2), 399–408.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., Bolstridge, M., Rucker, J., Day, C. M. J., Erritzoe, D., Kaelen, M., & Nutt, D. J. (2016). Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: An open-label feasibility study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3(7), 619–627.

Coleman, R., & Walker, M. (2017). Psychedelic psychotherapy: A user friendly guide to psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy. Transform Press.

Dorsen, C., Palamar, J., & Shedlin, M. G. (2019). Ceremonial ‘Plant Medicine’ use and its relationship to recreational drug use: An exploratory study. Addiction Research & Theory, 27(2), 68–75.

Fadiman, J. (2011). The psychedelic explorer’s guide: Safe, therapeutic and sacred journeys. Park Street Press.

Frecska, E. (2011). The risks and potential benefits of ayahuasca use from a psychopharmacological perspective. In B. C. Labate (Ed.). The Internationalization of Ayahuasca (151-165). Lit Verlag.

Goldsmith, M. N. (2010). Psychedelic healing: The promise of entheogens for psychotherapy and spiritual development. Healing Arts Press.

Griffiths, R. R., Johnson, M. W., Carducci, M. A., Umbricht, A., Richards, W. A., Richards, B. D., & Klinedinst, M. A. (2016). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1181–1197.

Grob, C. S., Danforth, A. L., Chopra, G. S., Hagerty, M., McKay, C. R., Halberstad, A. L., & Greer, G. R. (2011). Pilot study of psilocybin treatment for anxiety in patients with advanced-stage cancer. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(1), 71–78.

Grof, S. (2008). Brief history of transpersonal psychology. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 27(1), 46–54.

Grof S. (2008). LSD Psychotherapy: The Healing Potential of Psychedelic Medicine. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Grof, S. (2019). The way of the psychonaut: Encyclopedia for inner journeys (Vol 1). Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Guthrie, L. (2021). A phenomenology of challenging psychedelic experiences: From relational trauma to relational healing (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Hayes, C., Wahba, M., & Watson, S. (2022). Will psilocybin lose its magic in the clinical setting? Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, 12, 1-9.

Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R. (2017). Potential therapeutic effects of psilocybin. Neurotherapeutics,14(3), 734–740.

Johnson, M. W., Richards, W. A., & Griffiths, R. R. (2008). Human hallucinogen research: Guidelines for safety. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22(6), 603–620.

Kaelen, M., Giribaldi, B., Raine, J., Evans, L., Timmerman, C., Rodriguez, N., & Carhart-Harris, R. (2018). The hidden therapist: Evidence for a central role of music in psychedelic therapy. Psychopharmacology, 235(2), 505–519.

Lehto, R. H., Miller, M., & Sender, J. (2022). The role of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to support patients with cancer: A critical scoping review of the research. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 40(3), 265–280.

Liberati, A., Altman, D. G., Tetzlaff, J., Mulrow, C., Gotzsche, P. C., Ioannidis, J. P. A., & Moher, D. (2009). The PRISMA statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate healthcare interventions: Explanation and elaboration. BMJ, 339, 1-10.

Lutkajtis, A. (2021). Four individuals’ experiences during and following a psilocybin truffle retreat in the Netherlands. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 5(1), 22–32.

Malone, T. C., Mennenga, S. E., Guss, J., Podrebarac, S. K., Owens, L. T., Bossis, A. P., & Ross, S. (2018). Individual experiences in four cancer patients following psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9, 1-6.

Mason, N. L., Mischler, E., Uthaug, M. V., & Kuypers, K. P. C. (2019). Sub-acute effects of psilocybin on empathy, creative thinking, and subjective well-being. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 51(2), 123–134.

McCartney, A. M., McGovern, H. T., & De Foe, A. (2022). Psychedelic assisted therapy for major depressive disorder: Recent work and clinical directions. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 6(1), 10–22.

Meikle, S. E., Liknaitzky, P., Rossell, S. L., Ross, M., Strauss, N., Thomas, N., & Castle, D. J. (2020). Psilocybin-assisted therapy for depression: How do we advance the field? Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 54(3), 225–231.

Moreno, F. A., Wiegand, C. B., Taitano, E. K., & Delgado, P. L. (2006). Safety, tolerability, and efficacy of psilocybin in 9 patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67(11), 1735–1740.

Nielson, E. M., May, D. G., Forcehimes, A. A., & Bogenschutz, M. P. (2018). The psychedelic debriefing in alcohol dependence treatment: Illustrating key change phenomena through qualitative content analysis of clinical sessions. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9, 1-13.

Nielson, E. M., & Guss, J. (2018). The influence of therapists’ first-hand experience with psychedelics on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy research and therapist training. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 2(2), 64–73.

Noorani, T., Garcia-Romeu, A., Swift, T. C., Griffiths, R. R., & Johnson, M. W. (2018). Psychedelic therapy for smoking cessation: Qualitative analysis of participant accounts. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 32(7), 756–769.

Nutt, D. (2019). Psychedelic drugs - A new era in psychiatry? Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 21(2), 139–147.

Ouzzani, M., Hammady, H., Fedorowicz, Z., & Elmagarmid, A. (2016). Rayyan — a web and mobile app for systematic reviews. Systematic Reviews, 5(210), 1-10

Peters, M. D. J., Marnie, C., Tricco, A. C., Pollock, D., Munn, Z., Alexander, L., & Khalil, H. (2020). Updated methodological guidance for the conduct of scoping reviews. JBI Evidence Synthesis, 18(10), 2119–2126.

Pollan, M. (2018). How to change your mind: What the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence. Penguin Books.

Phelps, J., & Henry, J. (2021). Foundations for training psychedelic therapists. Springer.

Radakovic, C., Radakovic, R., Peryer, G., & Geere, J. A. (2022). Psychedelics and mindfulness: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 6(2), 137–153.

Read, T., & Papaspyrou, M. (2021). Psychedelics and psychotherapy: The healing potential of expanded states. Park Street Press.

Ross, S., Bossis, A., Guss, J., Agin-Liebes, G., Malone, T., Cohen, B., & Schmidt, B. L. (2016). Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1165–1180.

Schultes, R. E., Hoffman, A., & Rätsch, C. (2001). Plants of the Gods: Their sacred, healing, and hallucinogenic powers. Healing Arts Press.

Shaw, L., Rea, K., Lachowsky, N. J., & Roth, E. A. (2022). Magic mushroom use: A qualitative interview study of post-trip impacts and strategies for optimizing experiences. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1–8.

Shore, R. J., Ioudovski, P., McKeown, S., Dumont, E., & Goldie, C. (2019). Mapping psilocybin-assisted therapies: A scoping review. MedRxiv.

Smith, W. R., & Appelbaum, P. S. (2022). Novel ethical and policy issues in psychiatric uses of psychedelic substances. Neuropharmacology, 216, 1-5.

Soler, J., Elices, M., Dominguez-Clavé, E., Pascual, J. C., Feilding, A., Navarro-Gil, M., & Riba, J. (2018). Four weekly ayahuasca sessions lead to increases in ‘acceptance’ capacities: A comparison study with a standard 8-week mindfulness training program. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9(MAR), 1–8.

Soler, J., Elices, M., Franquesa, A., Barker, S., Friedlander, P., Feilding, A., & Riba, J. (2016). Exploring the therapeutic potential of Ayahuasca: Acute intake increases mindfulness-related capacities. Psychopharmacology, 233(5), 823–829.

Stauffer, C. S., Anderson, B. T., Ortigo, K. M., & Woolley, J. (2021). Psilocybin-assisted group therapy and attachment: Observed reduction in attachment anxiety and influences of attachment insecurity on the psilocybin experience. ACS Pharmacology and Translational Science, 4(2), 526–532.

Stokke, C., & Rodriguez, M. C. (2021). Spiritual awakening experiences: A phenomenological study in transpersonal psychology. Self & Society, 49(2), 9-25.

Swift, T. C., Belser, A. B., Agin-Liebes, G., Devenot, N., Terrana, S., Friedman, H. L., & Ross, S. (2017). Cancer at the dinner table: Experiences of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of cancer-related distress. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 57(5), 488–519.

Thal, S. B., Bright, S. J., Sharbanee, J. M., Wenge, T., & Skeffington, P. M. (2021). Current perspective on the therapeutic pre-set for substance-assisted psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 12(July), 1-16.

Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K. K., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., & Straus, S. E. (2018). PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR): Checklist and explanation. Annals of Internal Medicine, 169(7), 467–473.

Watts, R., Day, C., Krzanowski, J., Nutt, D., & Carhart-Harris, R. (2017). Patients’ accounts of increased “connectedness” and “acceptance” after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 57(5), 520–564.

Watts, R. (2020). The use of the psychological flexibility model to support psychedelic assisted therapy. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 15, 92-102.

Wheeler, S., & Dyer, N. (2020). A systematic review of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for mental health: An evaluation of the current wave of research and suggestions for the future. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 7, 1-39.

Ziff, S., Stern, B., Lewis, G., Majeed, M., & Gorantla, V. R. (2022). Analysis of psilocybin-assisted therapy in medicine: A narrative review. Cureus, 14(2), 1-12.




How to Cite

SCHUITMAKER, N. Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy: A scoping review of participants’ and facilitators’ experiences in qualitative studies. Research, Society and Development, [S. l.], v. 12, n. 9, p. e12312943308, 2023. DOI: 10.33448/rsd-v12i9.43308. Disponível em: Acesso em: 25 apr. 2024.



Human and Social Sciences